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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
mittee determined that the research funding strategies of DOJ have not adequately served the broad needs of the forensic science community. This is understandable, but not acceptable when the issue is whether an agency is best suited to support and oversee the Nation’s forensic science community. In sum, the committee concluded that advancing science in the forensic science enterprise is not likely to be achieved within the confines of DOJ.
Furthermore, there is little doubt that some existing federal entities are too wedded to the current “fragmented” forensic science community, which is deficient in too many respects. Most notably, these existing agencies have failed to pursue a rigorous research agenda to confirm the evidentiary reliability of methodologies used in a number of forensic science disciplines. These agencies are not good candidates to oversee the overhaul of the forensic science community in the United States.
Finally, some existing federal agencies with other missions occasionally have undertaken projects affecting the forensic science community. These entities are better left to continue the good work that defines their principal missions. More responsibility is not better for these existing entities, nor would it be better for the forensic science community or the Nation.
The committee thus concluded that the problems at issue are too serious and important to be subsumed by an existing federal agency. It also concluded that no existing federal agency has the capacity or appropriate mission to take on the roles and responsibilities needed to govern and improve the forensic science enterprise.
The committee believes that what is needed to support and oversee the forensic science community is a new, strong, and independent entity that could take on the tasks that would be assigned to it in a manner that is as objective and free of bias as possible—one with no ties to the past and with the authority and resources to implement a fresh agenda designed to address the problems found by the committee and discussed in this report. A new organization should not be encumbered by the assumptions, expectations, and deficiencies of the existing fragmented infrastructure, which has failed to address the needs and challenges of the forensic science disciplines.
This new entity must be an independent federal agency established to address the needs of the forensic science community, and it must meet the following minimum criteria:
It must have a culture that is strongly rooted in science, with strong ties to the national research and teaching communities, including federal laboratories.
It must have strong ties to state and local forensic entities as well as to the professional organizations within the forensic science community.